Volume 58, Number 6, June 2021
Golden Opportunity THE news that the Bank of England and the Treasury are to look into the viability of a cryptocurrency, along similar lines to Bitcoin et al, has sent shivers down the spines of those of us who fear the days of cash are numbered. I have, many times, extolled the virtues of cash in this editorial column, not least because were cash to disappear then it would have a detrimental effect on our hobby. Fewer and fewer people would start collecting in the way most of us did, by pulling coins out of change and saving them. Get rid of cash and future generations won’t know the joy of finding something special in their change like we did (and still do, even today I’m still hunting for the dateless 20p or the 1983 “New Pence” 2p, so far without success. But who knows?) and inevitably that will hurt numbers coming in to the hobby. It has to. The other reason for my concern regarding the demise of cash is a good old conspiracy theory one—that if we only have a virtual currency, controlled by a central bank, then (a.) we have no recourse if negative interest rates are introduced (you can’t simply draw your money out and hold on to it if physical money doesn’t exist) and (b.) I don’t necessarily want every single transaction I make logged somewhere. This isn’t because I am into anything dodgy but rather because I want control over my spending. I don’t want to abdicate it to someone else. A central digital currency would be easy for a government to control and I don’t particularly want the powers that be to be in charge of telling me what I can and cannot spend my money on, thank you. OK, so the chances of the Government actually caring about what I spend my hard-earned money on are slim, but the principal remains. Theoretically a central digital currency could be used to control what the populace buy and restrictions could be put in place “for the public good”. Maybe only one fast food meal a week would be allowed, perhaps alcohol and tobacco purchases would be limited, who knows? It’s all possible. Yes I’m being paranoid but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen! Rather ironically, whilst the idea of a cashless society may be damaging for the hobby in the long term, it does actually boost it in another way in the short term; as those who are able to start increasing their stocks of gold! Gold has long been the go-to safe haven in times of trouble or uncertainty and its universal appeal means it attracts the attention of those looking to put their money into something other than the bank. I’m not quite sure how gold is going to help with everyday transactions of course, I’m not certain Tesco accepts sovereigns, but certainly from the perspective of avoiding negative interest rates should they come in then gold is a great alternative to just shoving lots of notes under your mattress, especially if notes no longer exists. It’s a better hedge against inflation too. Now we won’t give investment advice here, we’re not allowed to for one thing and besides everyone is different, but we will say that from a numismatic point of view gold is really, really interesting; so as fellow collectors we’d certainly recommend that you have some in your collection! Gold has been one of the two most widely recognised and accepted “precious metals” since the very earliest coins (the first Lydian “lions” were electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, it wasn’t long before the two were separated out though) and continues to fascinate today. Whether it’s numismatic gold (in very broad terms those coins minted earlier than the late 1800s or something specially struck) or bullion gold, the pull of the yellow metal is strong—as we well know if demand for our especially dedicated books is anything to go by. Roderick Farey’s The Guide to the Guinea, produced earlier this year, has proved an outstanding success and our brand new book, The Gold Sovereign Series, a sequel to our first imprint of Michael Marsh’s The Gold Sovereign, once again fully updated by Steve Hill and now containing full listings for the five sovereign and two sovereign pieces too, has been flying off the shelves. As I said, we cannot give you investment or financial advice in regards to gold (apart from perhaps to tell you that collector gold is VAT free and legal tender British gold and silver coins are Capital Gains Tax free too, but this information is publicly available so we won’t get in trouble) but we will say this—with enough information at your fingertips (say in the form of a good book or two) British gold coins can be fascinating to collect and, if nothing else, they will always be a lot prettier than a cryptocurrency you never get to actually see!
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